Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Good legs at the Sydney Harbour 10k


The July 9 Sydney Harbour 10k was a new race for me — one I'd been looking forward to, in part because the event organisers promised a fast and scenic course. My last 10k race had been The Melbourne Marathon 10k back in October (52:27) and the last time I'd been under 50 minutes was in 2015 at Melbourne (47:39). My goal for Sydney was to break 50 minutes but a head-cold in the last 2 weeks changed my expectations to 'having a good run and enjoying the scenery.'

Sunday dawned a spectacular Sydney day — sunny, mild (for winter) with just a light breeze. I ran a short warm-up with Norma (aka Luckylegs) who would win the 80-89 category in 79 minutes. My starting position was good, not too far back from the front of the 'B Group' corral for runners expecting a time of 48 to 55 minutes. The start was smooth and as we wound our way down through the Rocks I felt like I was running at about 5-minute per km pace.

After settling in to my race effort I began to experience an amazing feeling — my legs were fresh and springy! Wow! It was like one of those track 3000s from twenty years ago when I'd have to shorten my stride to avoid tripping over the runners in front. I felt like I was running on the spot. Seductive! I want this feeling of fresh and springy legs again. The race continued, along the narrow paths of Darling Harbour and at one of the U-turns I saw that I was ahead of the 50-minute pacer. My legs were still feeling good but I slowed a little on the one hill of the course (a bridge back to the city at 6k). It wasn't long before I was back running beside the harbour, under the famous bridge, onto the boardwalk and raising a modest sprint through the finish chute — 48:58 for the 10k. Happy with that.

Since the race I've been wondering why my legs felt so good on that particular day. Was it because of the rest day on the Saturday? Or because my regular 80k per week mileage had been down to around 60 in the 3 weeks prior to race day? Or because I'd started running short intervals on the treadmill and the grass track at Calwell? Whatever it was, I want to have legs like that again. If I can have them for a 5k race I'm sure I'd be in a good position to get under 23 minutes.

Ready to start in the Sydney Harbour 10k

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A rare half marathon and a cross country win


For the week following Nail Can I ran a mostly easy 69 km then 81 km including a quickish Customs' 5k in 24:32 (a slower course than the Tuggers Parkrun). In a last minute decision I entered the YCRC Canberra Half Marathon as many friends were running and I thought it a good way to get in my weekly long run. My last road half marathon was at the Gold Coast in July 2014 (1:56) and I had a rough goal of improving on that time.

The race went quite well for the first 10k, with 5-minute kilometres not feeling overly difficult. On the run down the steep hill near the Governor General's side yard my left calf started tightening up and I had visions of a DNF (at worst) or a slow jog/walk to the finish (at best). Easing off the pressure just a fraction worked a miracle and I was able to run to the finish at a slightly reduced pace. I finished 138th in 1:50:16 with 5k splits of 25:08, 25:13, 27:15, 26:26 and 6:18 for the last k and a bit. I was pretty happy with that result and ran in recovery mode Monday to Friday of the next week.

On Saturday 3 June I raced the 8k event for Masters at the ACT Cross Country Championships. I ran well! Stayed with Roger early then drifted ahead but couldn't catch any other runners, finishing 11th in 39:25. As a bonus, I was the first M60 (in a field of one!) so was presented with a gold medal for my efforts. The small number of entrants across all races was disappointing. The Open Men's race had less than a dozen finishers. Way back in 1989 I was buried deep in the field, finishing 58th for the 12k in 47:51. Is running less competitive now or are people happy enough doing the Parkruns?

Flying (sort of) with 7k to run in the Canberra Half

All the medal winners in the ACT Masters' XC Championships

Thursday, May 18, 2017

BREAKING60


My friend Jim has been running 'The Nail Can Hill Run' for many years, more often than not driving myself and sometimes other runners the 360k to Albury for the event. As we approached our destination on Saturday 6 May I was watching in awe the live stream on my phone showing Eliud Kipchoge running the quite incredible time of 2:00:25 for the marathon distance at Monza. On Sunday we'd be running a quarter of the distance at almost double the pace. We must be snails! I first ran the 11.3k trail race in 1981, finishing in 50:40. The course is a good one for mountain goats, being gently uphill for 2k then steep for the next 2k (quite a bit of walking for me). Following this 'warm-up', runners enjoy beautiful gently undulating to flat sandy trails before a steep down after 8k and more gentle undulations from 9k to the parkland finish.

I first accompanied Jim to the race in 2006, running 60:56 in muddy conditions. Ever since then, the conversation pre-race has revolved around 'age-breaking'. You see, the folks that organise Nail Can make a big deal about running the course faster than your age (women receive an additional 20% on their time). A page on the website lists the 'Age Busters' and shows course record holder Steve Moneghetti running 34:57 at the age of 40! Age Busters receive a commemorative T shirt and those achieving this five times are presented with the Max Scherleitner Medal. Age Master status is awarded to anyone who can achieve Age Buster on ten occasions. Age Masters are awarded lifetime entry into the run, a permanent number and a commemorative singlet with race number. Jim is an Medal Master and next year will become an Age Master.

For myself, I've never been old enough! In 2015 at the age of 58, I ran 59:15, so I was getting close. Last year I didn't run due to the calf injury. This year I finally did it! After ten starts I placed 179th in the field of 867 finishers with a time of 59:03 (59:08 gross). Along with other Age Busters I was presented with a commemorative T Shirt after the race. I was one very happy and relieved runner. I was also happy with how I ran. My pacing at the start was good, passing Jim (who ran 66:57) around the 1k mark. I kept up with other runners climbing the hill and ran strongly along the ridge line. Seeing John Kennedy 100m or so ahead helped keep my mind on the job beyond the 4k marker. I slowly pegged back the distance, catching John at 8k "We'll break 60" said John confidently — I was happy to hear that as we negotiated the steep downhill section. Then it was the old 'running scared' process and keeping fingers crossed there'd be no late calf cramps or other dramas. All good as I ran onto the oval, hearing my name announced and seeing the digital clock ticking up to 59 minutes and beyond. Afterwards the Canberra contingent sat in the sun on the grassy bank, all age-busters except for female race-winner Elizabeth — she'd run the fabulous time of 45:05 but as Jim was quick to remind her "You didn't break your age!"

One for mountain goats - dips in the blue line showing where I walked
The famous Age Buster shirt - on the back it says "First they broke the four-minute mile; next came the 2:10 marathon; now the mountain goats of Nail Can Hill are busting the age barrier."
Happy Age Busters!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

New opportunities in a new age-group


I've been racing regularly since the 23:32 5k on March 11, the most pleasing results in non-parkrun events. The first was at Stirling Ridge in a YMCA Runners Club 'summer series' race — 4.85k of muddy single-tracks through bushland adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin. I placed 19th at 5:31 per km pace on a difficult course, feeling like I'd run well. On April 15 I ran in the Wagga Wagga Road Runners event at Pomingalarna Reserve. It was an unexpectedly difficult course with one particularly steep hill that required walking, compensated by long flowing downhills which were fun to run. I placed in the first half of the field, running 36:11 for 6.66k — 5:26 per km pace at an average heart rate of 142. Again I felt like I'd had a good race. Parkrun 5ks have been mostly tempo or progression runs, not enjoying the cold early morning temperatures.

The interval sessions have been careful and modest so far — 1k repeats at 5k to 10k race effort and some 'fast' downhill kilometres at the weekly BBQ Stakes lunchtime handicap run (I'll warm up for the first 2k before running the third mostly downhill km and fifth steeper downhill km fast). My fastest effort has been 4:15 so that's under the 4:20 I surmised would be necessary to be 'comfortable' at 5k goal pace of 4:33 per km.

Next week I move into a new exciting (and daunting) age-group: the 60-64s! For some races it's 60-69, so watch out you 69-year-olds! At the age of 59 it hasn't been easy racing 50-year-olds! For me, 60 doesn't feel that old — physically I feel like I'm in my mid-40s (besides running slower in races) and I'm looking forward to establishing and breaking PBs for the new age-group. Bring on next week!

Runners finishing at Pomingalarna Park
Course map and profile. Hard and fun!

Monday, March 13, 2017

A palindromic and pleasing 23:32 for 5k


In Saturday's Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k I placed 49th with a time of 23:32. I was happy with my race and the time, even though it was only 9 seconds faster than my best 5k time for the year. During the run I felt like I was moving well and I finished strongly (apart from the final 200 metres where Judy and Amy flew by in a blur). This week I backed off the mileage with the purpose of having a 'recovery' week, running 66 km instead of my usual 90 or thereabouts. During an easy 7k lunchtime run on Friday my legs felt tired and ordinary so I was lacking excited anticipation for Saturday morning's race. I hoped to at least have a good tempo run as I completed an exceedingly short (1 km) warm-up, not even bothering to run some strides.

I started about 5 rows back in the chute and my Garmin showed 3s to reach the start line. Being a long weekend in Canberra, numbers were down and I wasn't impeded at all by fast starting runners who slow down after 200 metres of furious sprinting. I overtook Jimmy unusually early (well before 500m) and was running with Sophie through 1k (4:54). She then surged a bit and would end up running 22:55. Surprisingly, my legs were feeling quite good! I followed Judy (running with Amy) to the turn and on the way back, overtook them just before the 3k marker — 4:39 for the second km, 4:43 for the third. I was generally maintaining my position in the field or passing runners (always a good sign). Crossing the footbridge, I was closing on Geoff W (M65) and I covered the 4th km in 4:47. Thought I'd be safely under 24 minutes (yes, I glanced at the Garmin at 4k — something I rarely do) and ran hard past Maccas, overtaking Geoff. I was hurting in the last kilometre (my split would be 4:29) but still sprinted off the little hill into the parkland finish.

On the face of it, 23:32 is a long way off my year's goal of 22:45, but I think I can get there! Racing off to a slightly faster start, say 4:40 through 1 kilometre, would be worth 15 seconds. There's also a gain to be made by lengthening my 'old man's shuffle' stride by running more regular 'strides' sessions and perhaps introducing some controlled interval work into the mix. That's the plan. My only other problem at the moment (no injury niggles — yea!) is day-to-day recovery. Our long hot summer has been very unhelpful to recovery! With the change of seasons, that will improve.

14k with the Speedygeese Sunday long run group

Friday, February 03, 2017

How much speed do I need to run 5k in 22:45?


There's an interesting article published in 2014 on Competitor.com by Jeff Gaudette which addresses the issue of 'Speed verses Aerobic Endurance' — the question of how much short distance speed does one need in order to run a desired time in a longer distance race, be that a 5k or a marathon. John states that 'speed is rarely the limiting factor in how fast you can race, even for a distance as "short" as the 5K.' The limiting factor is aerobic endurance. A runner's 'speed' over 400 metres to 1k is pretty much set genetically. A distance runner's job is to run as close as possible to that speed for the time of the race (which could be as little as 13 minutes for a 5k or longer than 4 hours for a marathon). The 'secret' to fast distance racing is to be aerobically strong enough to hold one's speed for the distance of the race.

John says "there is a limit to how much you can develop your absolute speed. At some point, your body approaches its natural talent point and working to improve speed provides diminishing returns. Luckily, improving your aerobic capacity is virtually limitless." For myself, I still feel like there are big gains to be made in my aerobic capacity, even though I'm now running 80 or more kilometres per week.

So, how fast am I over one kilometre? This is something I haven't tested in a very long time. I think I will though, just to have that information. My guess is under 4:20 (I can run a 4:30 k split in the Parkrun). Now when I was very young (34 or so), I could run a training 1k in 3:09 and ended up racing the 5000m in 17:33 (3:31 per km). My 5k race pace was about 11% slower than my pace for 1k — I wasn't a great 'converter' of my 1k speed into a 5k time. Looking back to those days now, I can say for sure that I hadn't maximised my aerobic ability. A fast runner who was also aerobically strong might be 4 to 5% slower than their 1k speed in a 5k race. That is, if they could run 2:48 'all out' for 1k they could probably hold 2:56 pace for 5k race.

How much speed do I need to run 5k in 22:45? When I was 50 years old I ran 21:29 for the 5000m on the track when I could run 4:00 for 1k in training (about 7% slower for 5k pace than my 1k pace). Extrapolating from this information, presuming I could run 1k in 4:15 and was as aerobically strong as I was in 2008, I could expect to run 5k in 22:44. Now all I need is to be feeling good on a cool, calm day!

Training on the soft grass of Yarralumla Oval on a warm Monday evening

Saturday, January 14, 2017

An age-graded 5k goal for 2017

I've been giving my 2017 running goals some serious thought. The number one goal is to enjoy my running and racing by training consistently throughout the year. This means not succumbing to sickness or injury — easier said than done! My favourite race distance is the 5k and luckily enough I have the opportunity to run a timed 5k every Saturday morning at Parkrun. So, what finishing time should be my goal time?

I've decided to aim for a time that's challenging yet (in my mind) achievable. My recent best (7 January) is 23:51, so obviously something faster than that! My all-time Parkrun PB is 22:31, run nearly two years ago at the Tuggeranong Parkrun. I don't think the pace needed to improve on that time is physically impossible, but the thing that's holding me back from declaring 22:20 or 22:29 as a 5k goal is my terrible track record of achieving yearly running goals. Since 2004 I've only achieved two goals, both related to finishing the 45k Six Foot Track Marathon in fairly modest times.

The Runner's World Age-Grade Calculator is the tool I've used to come up with a 5k goal for 2017. I'd be happy to improve on the 69.8% age-grading that 22:31 represents. The time I've come up with is the equivalent of 18:31 for an open aged runner, which is a time I could run fairly easily in my early thirties. So, the big 5k time goal for 2017 is 22:45 (70.18% age-graded).

I hope everyone is doing well in planning for and going after whatever running goals you have lined up for 2017. I'll be checking your blogs regularly to see how you're progressing. No pressure, but don't let me down!

A few of the 'Speedygeese' that make Monday training fun


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Racing my fastest 5k of 2016

I decided to race as fast as I could at the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k on Saturday if my legs were feeling up to a hard effort. In the midst of LSD training I never quite know how my legs will feel, even after warming up. For this run I felt about average (somewhere in the middle of the range from dead awful to skin-jumpingly brilliant). I jogged for 2k, some with Dave (an 18:39 5k runner), then lined up in the start chute a little more towards the front than is my habit.

On "go!" from Nick it took me about 2 seconds to cross the start line. Great start! But still many runners ahead, sprinting through the park. I settled into my race pace, my progress a little zigzaggy for the first kilometre. One pleasant surprise — passing Jim after just 500 metres. As I was concerned about time, I glanced at my Garmin at 1k and was a little disappointed to see 4:55. Oh, well... just keep running by effort. I passed Peter after the footbridge, then Judy flew by effortlessly — I thought she'd run around 23 minutes (23:17 as it happened) but I couldn't quite stick with her pace. I glanced again at the Garmin at the turn and saw '12:01' — is that all?!

Returning on the out/back course I was racing runners I was unfamiliar with — Liz was there, some other veteran men and a teenage boy (who would surge every now and then). I added '5' to my time at the 4k mark (19:09) and was happy that I'd run a sub-24 unless the wheels fell off. Scott overtook me coming back into the park but I think my finish was fairly strong (if not an all-out sprint). 23:46 for 50th place! Yes!

If you'd asked me at the beginning of the year would I be excited about such a time, the answer would have been in the negative. My goal back then was 22:00 for 5k but the first 6 months of the year was written off with illness and injury. So to come from 27:26 on 16 July down to 23:46 in December is pretty exciting. Interestingly, both those times were at the same average heart rate of 143, so pretty good evidence that LSD training is working. I'm fitter, enjoying my training AND running faster.
Running out of the park, shortly after the start
A disinterested spectator, 600 metres from the finish
LSD trail run around Mt Stromlo with the Speedygeese